Slovakia's star in the ascendant
How did they perform in the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification round?
• One of the pleasant surprises of the European zone qualification round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Slovakia made the play-offs, and although their defeat to Spain was clear-cut, 12 performances in which six victories and five draws were recorded showed a team that have made a significant step forward.
• Six games into their campaign, Slovakia had retained an unbeaten record with four victories. The statistics will point to comprehensive home victories against Liechtenstein (7-0) and a second half four-goal salvo against Latvia (4-1), but two 1-1 draws, away against Russia and home against Portugal, showed that Slovakia had the ability to compete with two teams that had played at the UEFA EURO 2004™ finals.
• Although Slovakia lost 2-0 on their subsequent trip away to Portugal, and there were dropped points away to Liechtenstein (0-0) and Latvia (1-1), victories away against Luxembourg (4-0) and at home against Estonia (1-0) meant that a draw against Russia in Bratislava in their final match would be enough would secure a play-off place.
• The Slovakians held their nerve as the match ended in a scoreless stalemate, leaving them with a two-legged play-off against Spain.
• But they would feel Spanish wrath in the play-offs, losing 5-1 in Madrid following a Luis García hat-trick (10, 18 and 75) with Fernando Torres (65) and Fernando Morientes (79) also on target. The return leg in Bratislava ended in a 1-1 stalemate with Filip Hološko's 50th-minute goal cancelled by David Villa's equaliser 20 minutes later.
How did they perform in UEFA EURO 2004™?
• With three victories and a draw from their eight matches in the UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying round, Slovakia failed to threaten the dominance of England or Turkey in terms of the chase for a place at the finals in Portugal.
• In the end, the Slovakians ended ten points behind group winners, England, and nine behind Turkey in second. All of their ten points came against teams ranked below them in the final standings thanks to victories home and away against Liechtenstein and away against F.Y.R. Macedonia.
• Although they lost all four matches against the group principles, Slovakia led at the interval against England at Middlesbrough's Riverside stadium thanks to Vladimir Janočko's 31st-minute goal. But England got back into the game when Michael Owen converted from the spot on the hour mark before he added the winning goal eleven minutes later.
What is their best performance in the UEFA European Championship?
• As part of the former state of Czechoslovakia, Slovakian players were involved in winning the 1976 UEFA European Championship against West Germany. The final ended in a 2-2 stalemate in Belgrade before the Czechoslovak side won 5-3 on penalties with Antonín Panenka cheekily chipping in the final spot-kick for Václav Ježek's side.
• To date, Slovakia have participated in the competition three times as an independent state, finishing in third position on each occasion. Their best points tally came in the UEFA EURO 2000™ qualifying round when they collected 17 points from ten outings. Twelve of those points came in home-and-away defeats of Liechtenstein and Azerbaijan, with their most impressive performance coming in Gyor where a Martin Fabuš goal after 53 minutes provided them with their first-ever victory against their Hungarian neighbours. Their remaining points came in scoreless draws at home against Hungary and away against Romania.
• Up until the start of qualifying for UEFA EURO 2008™, Slovakia had appeared in the UEFA European Championship on three occasions, and had played 28 matches. In that time, they had won twelve, drawn five and lost eleven with 37 goals scored and 36 conceded.